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QUOTE  Here's one thing that hasn't changed in the Obama era: Republicans are still able to
come up with scare tactics that turn Senate Democrats into a terrified
and incoherent bunch of mewling babies. - Dan Froomkin
 QUOTE
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I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat! Steve Bates,
The Yellow Something Something
POLITICAL GRAVITY -- POLITICAL LEVITY -- VERSE AND WORSE
I'm a Yellow Dog Democrat!
COMMENTS MAY BE MODERATED

BlogDoggerel
for May 2009

 



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RECENT COMMENTS

   

Stella's Father Seriously Ill - UPDATED

This has not been a good week medically for Stella's father. As there is some concern whether he will survive, Stella and Stella's father's wife* are taking turns watching at his bedside at a hospital about 30 miles north of Houston+. If you are the praying sort, and if you have some prayers to spare, please send a few on behalf of this gentleman, who among many other good deeds blessed the world with four fine children including my beloved. If not, at least spare him a few positive thoughts and good wishes; he needs them.


* Not Stella's mother, who died decades ago, and don't ever dare call her Stella's mother-in-law stepmother to her face!
+ I'd be there, but I'm in no condition to make even short road trips at the moment. And somebody has to take care of the kitties.


UPDATE Sunday afternoon: Stella's father is doing better, not great, but improved enough that Stella can come home and begin her work week tomorrow. Thanks to all of you for your prayers and good wishes.

Steve
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Republicans Hate True Love

Oh, good grief:

RNC slams Obama for romantic date with Michelle in New York
By Jimmy Orr | 05.30.09

     ...

“As President Obama prepares to wing into Manhattan’s theater district on Air Force One to take in a Broadway show, GM is preparing to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills,” RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said in an email this afternoon.

That’s not all from Gitcho. She then added a snitty, “Have a great Saturday evening — even if you’re not jetting off somewhere at taxpayer expense.”

     ...

What can I say. Between that, and Gingrich's "un-American" remark about Sotomayor, and Tancredo's unapologetic blast about Obama's nonwhite appointees, it seems the GOP has adopted a "throw everything and the kitchen sink at him" approach. Or is that "everything and the crapper" ...

At my age, there isn't much I haven't seen in the political arena, and there isn't much that offends me. But I have to say I've never seen the likes of this coming from any group but the GOP. When I first noticed an instance of willful, gross disrespect coming out of the mouth of someone in the GOP, it was from Lee Atwater, in the Reagan era. Atwater died young, apologizing on his deathbed for what he had done. Apparently that had no effect on the rest of the GOP powers-that-be.

Who will rid me of this meddlesome party? the American voter, perhaps? soon, please?

Steve
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Friday Window Blogging

Tabitha and Samantha enjoy a friendly moment in Stella's office window. Sometimes this is the view from my desk chair:



No, we do not live in a jail... our neighbors have an iron fence right outside the window. It's still just barely cool enough outside to allow the girls to perch on the sill and lean out against the screen. We don't expect that to continue much longer as the temperature begins to touch 90°F in the middle of the day.

Steve
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Populism?

We've all seen and heard the words "populism" and "populist" used by MSM commentators, who fling them about as if they knew what they meant. Sometimes it's good to go to a primary source. Jim Hightower is such a source, and if you follow that link and read what he has to say, you'll learn something about populism, the real thing, not the MSM buzzword. Hightower discusses history and political philosophy, as well as why we no longer see (cap-P) Populists in the political arena. I don't know that I am one, but I surely wouldn't mind seeing a revival of their influence in these Dog-awful "postpartisan" times.

Steve
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Wednesday Flower Blogging

Can anyone tell me what this is? If the plant were allowed to grow, it might become a tree; as it is, it is in a bed in the back yard of the new old house:



Steve
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Nelson To Diss Appointment - UPDATED

I expected rancor from Republicans at Obama's nomination of 2nd Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court position to be vacated by the retiring Justice David Souter. Hell, as blatant as GOP racism became during the last election, I expected headlines in GOP newsletters to read "N***** Appoints S*** To Court" or something not much less extreme. I expected Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ and appropriately termed minority whip) to filibuster whomever Obama appointed; he has threatened twice within recent memory to do so, before Obama's choice was even hinted at. I expected Cornyn... oh, never mind what I expected Cornyn to do; I prefer not to talk about people's bowel movements.

But... Ben Nelson? What does he want this time? because it's always something.

The conventional GOP complaint against Sotomayor seems to be that she is a liberal activist judge. That's a bit hard to fathom in someone who was appointed to the bench by George H. W. Bush. According to the wiki, her two best-known decisions are the one that ended the 1994 Major League Baseball strike by enjoining the corporate MLB from ditching the collective bargaining agreement in place and not so incidentally all its players, and allowing the WSJ to publish Vince Foster's suicide note. I can't see either of those decisions as evidence of judicial activism on either side.

Neither Sotomayor's decisions nor her politics really deserve the term "liberal"; that's another right-wing smear job. What's next, will they call her a "socialist"? Personally, I'd prefer a real liberal on that bench; there aren't many left. But if Obama wants a moderate, it's hard to see that Sotomayor does not count as a moderate.

Nonetheless, I encourage the GOP to give it everything they've got, including a filibuster if they think they can sustain it. Then they can delete all those files they've been accumulating on how to court (pun intended) Hispanic voters. While they're at it, they should lose the leases on their office space, and remind the last Republican to turn out the lights on the way out the door.


UPDATE, sort of: via Digby, we have a quote from Glenn Beck (here is an image of his Twitter post, on the Media Matters blog):

Does the nominee still have Diabetes? Could the Messiah heal her, or does she just not want to ask?

Um, Glenn, diabetes is permanent. As far as I know, nobody ever gets rid of it, though sometimes it can be managed and one can lead a reasonably normal life. I have it, and I do, although it is possible that Judge Sotomayor has type 1 diabetes, a related but less common disease with its own equally grim complications. The ability to manage diabetes renders it fundamentally different from your hateful, senseless cruelty, which as far as I can tell is a permanent condition that cannot be mitigated in the slightest by anything short of the loss of your ability to speak.

Since you're into religious rock-throwing, Glenn, catch this one: Dog damn you to a Hell of... of... I know... of diabetes. May you suffer the burning, stinging pain of peripheral neuropathy from the moment you awaken until the moment before you finally achieve tenuous, fragile sleep. May you eventually be unable to rise to your feet from your chair. And may you finally lose both hands, both feet and your sorry, stinking life to diabetes. Have a nice day, you Dog-damned bastard.

UPDATE: see the comment thread for further thoughts from readers and from me. Then go over to Mad Kane's place (see blogroll) (here is the link) for some biting commentary of the five-line variety on Ben Nelson.

Steve
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Preventive Detention

This will serve as my utterly disgusted Memorial Day post. My late father, Lt. William Bates (USN, gunnery officer, troop landing ship), and his brother Sgt. Wesley Bates (US Army, paratrooper, 101stAirborne) did not engage in combat in W.W. II, sustaining wounds themselves and watching their buddies die, to allow Dick Cheney, George W. Bush... and yes, Barack Obama... to wrest fundamental due process rights from prisoners under US control. I don't know about Uncle Wes, but Dad is in an urn in the living room, and I swear I heard him turn over in that grave when Obama spoke of preventive detention last week.

The very notion of Obama's proposal that authority be granted the President to order detention of suspected terrorists who have not only not been convicted of crimes but on whom there is insufficient evidence even to bring criminal charges against them should chill your American soul to the very core. Glenn Greenwald explains it best; every part of his post is worth reading.

I am 60 years old. To the best of my knowledge, I've never committed a crime more significant than a minor traffic violation, let alone a terrorist act: presumably such a law would not impact me directly. But if arbitrary indefinite detention without trial, presumably without habeas corpus and without all the usual due process rights becomes not merely standard practice (as it did under George W. Bush) but the law of the land (as Obama is proposing here), I will get my affairs in order and migrate to a nation that has something closer to a democracy as its form of government... that is, if we Americans don't join together to do something more precipitous first. Arbitrary indefinite imprisonment is the stuff of dictatorships. And I will not live out my remaining days in a dictatorship, as the subject of a dictator, no matter how "worthy" the nation or the leader: America is a great nation when it behaves as a great nation, and President Obama gets no free pass from me on this matter.


An aside: To anyone who says we must engage in such detentions for our safety, I will not debate you regarding the utter folly, the sheer improbability, of your assertion. Instead, I will call you a coward, too scared of shadows to be worthy of the benefits of self-government in a free and open society, undeserving of the rightful justice system of such a society. Go shred your habeas somewhere else, not in my presence... not in my nation.

Steve
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With Liberty Injustice For All

Liberty University has revoked permission for the student Democratic club... but not the corresponding Republican club... to hold events on campus, or to use "Liberty University" in its name. The Democratic club was recognized by the university only in October. Nonetheless, as Keith Olbermann informs us, Liberty University continues its tax-exempt status. (Olbermann suggests the university rename itself "Theocracy University." Rachel Maddow says the students can enjoy all the liberty they want, as long as they belong to the only political party allowed on campus.)

Do you think perhaps LU should lose its tax-exempt status? Me too! They are at liberty (ahem) to ban any campus club they want, but if they decree what students' partisan political activities must be (or not be), they are well over the line when they accept taxpayers' money.

Steve
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Space... The Final Front Ear

... or perhaps "Third Eye" is a better metaphor. Hidden behind the hoopla of the final Shuttle missions, the last few years of Hubble, etc., is an ongoing dilemma: Many who are enthusiasts of space exploration, including some within NASA, engage in vehement debates over whether our limited resources should be applied to near-space applications, direct human exploration (or exploitation) of planets in our Solar System, etc., or "pure" science, automated deep-space exploration, searches for Earth-like planets, collection of data that would support or reject theories of the origin of the universe, etc. (In my days as a music teacher, one of my students, a NASA planetary scientist, was in the latter camp. The degree to which he could get worked up about this issue was a delight to behold; it was more than a matter of livelihood to him.)

Since Reagan's presidency, there has been a third camp, those who are interested in space only as a venue for (in Bryan's words) things that go boom. As Republican presidencies have dominated the last three decades, that camp has received the bulk of funding in space-related matters. (Actually, it seems cronyism and campaign contributions may have largely determined our directions in space; why else would a nation, even one oriented primarily toward military uses, allow its GPS to deteriorate?)

Budgets aside, space-related scientific research is beginning to get its due, with Shuttle Atlantis's presumably final maintenance mission to the Hubble telescope (do NOT miss this breathtaking photo of Atlantis in transit of the Sun, taken from a small ground-based telescope) and the launch a couple of months ago of the Kepler Mission (two  sites), the search of about 100,000 stars for possible habitable planets. Yes, you read that right: against all odds, even before the question of life on other planets of our own Solar System has been wholly resolved (not to mention life in downtown Dallas on a weekend evening), a mission is underway to find planets "out there" that are suitable for the general kind of life we see around us:

ScienceDaily (May 15, 2009) — NASA's Kepler spacecraft has begun its search for other Earth-like worlds. The mission, which launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on March 6, will spend the next three-and-a-half years staring at more than 100,000 stars for telltale signs of planets. Kepler has the unique ability to find planets as small as Earth that orbit sun-like stars at distances where temperatures are right for possible lakes and oceans.

"Now the fun begins," said William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. "We are all really excited to start sorting through the data and discovering the planets."

     ...

Think about that as you sip your coffee!

Will humans ever venture to such planets to explore them firsthand? I rather doubt it. The means of transportation we have all become familiar with through the Star Trek universe are, after all, fiction, and I see no reasonable possibility that anything equivalent to warp drive will be discovered, let alone implemented. It seems likely, to quote one of the late lamented Arthur C. Clarke's characters, that "the stars are not for Man." Somehow, that doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for learning as much as possible about what's "out there." It is in the nature of the human spirit that we must pursue these things, much as we must pursue the performing arts and the study of the origin of the universe. "Because it's there" is reason enough.

Steve
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Olbermann Answers Cheney

... better than most of us could. (YouTube video.)

Cheney is a total failure in every way, and he lies whenever he opens his mouth. Yet not only does he continue to receive apparently unlimited network TV time for his rants, but those networks set him up to "debate" the President of the United States as if somehow there were an equivalency... whether of morals, stature, authority, whatever is unclear... between Cheney and the President that would somehow justify such a "debate." In short, there is no debate at all in Cheney's dark tirades... they are only TV ads for the most extreme and dangerous wing of the GOP, the very version of the party that Americans rejected emphatically in the last election. The strongest thing that can be said of Cheney's horrors is that they are constitutionally protected... protected by the very Constitution he is attempting to shred like a week-old incriminating memo.

Count me among those who believe America would benefit from more political contrast at the highest levels... no fewer than two genuinely distinct political parties, engaging not in juvenile "gotcha" games with prizes of power and money, but in actual attempts to improve the course of the republic. The short version of this notion is usually rendered as "America needs two parties," and I'll accept that statement, while recognizing it doesn't go nearly far enough. But Dog knows, today's Republican Party isn't one of those parties. And Cheney not only should not lead one of those parties; he should seek psychiatric care.

Cheney had eight years to transform America according to his sinister fantasies, and transform America he did indeed. But Americans were onto him. They rejected his designated successor, too late to prevent the almost unimaginable damage Cheney managed to perpetrate against the nation, but in time to give us that second chance that America has more and more come to depend on. We have embarked on that second chance... and Mr. Cheney is attempting to destroy that, too. It is time for him to go home, hide his twisted face in shame, and Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

Steve
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Maddow Assesses Obama's Constitutional Dilemma

Here. (YouTube video.) I consider this a must-view analysis of Obama's speech.

Obama seems to have passed F. Scott Fitzgerald's "true test of a first-rate mind[:] the ability to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time." That would be the ability to ignore cognitive dissonance. I wish I could say I was comforted even a little bit by that characteristic of this particular first-rate mind.

Rachel Maddow emphasizes that Obama, in one and the same speech, is building a temple to "the rule of law" and the Constitution, yet all the while advocating setting aside that very rule of law in a manner and to a degree comparable to the lawlessness of George W. Bush.

OK. Right. Jeebus. I believe Maddow is right... and for once, that scares the crap outta me.


(H/T Scarecrow.)

Steve
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Very Early Friday Nap Blogging

I can't put it off until Friday... I finally found the camera's battery charger, and Tabitha sat still on the sleeping Stella for just barely long enough for one shot:



There are two things to note in this picture, apart from the manifest sweetness of both ladies, Stella and Tabitha. One item is in the lower right-hand corner: the small visible area of hardwood floor. The whole house is like that, and the acoustics are unbelievably wonderful. The other, in the upper right, against the set of Great Books (as in all households, they are more to be looked at than actually read), is this copy of Maya Angelou's "On the Pulse of Morning," her inaugural poem for Bill Clinton. (See detail.) Yes, it is autographed by Angelou. Yes, it was passed out at the Clinton inauguration. No, Stella wasn't actually there, but a good friend was, and brought the poem to her.

Steve
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Not Only Does Torture Not Work...

... it never has. Learn about it from Robert W. Thurston, an expert on the European witch hunts of 1500-1700 and Soviet forced confessions of a more recent era.

Humankind (inhuman-unkind?) has been doing this for a long time. Thurston's work shows what many who know have said time and again: torture is very effective at extracting whatever the torturer wants to hear. The "ticking bomb" scenario so familiar from today's TV fiction (no, I will not name it or link it) is completely bogus. Government claims of torture's effectiveness, from fifteenth-century Spain to Israel in the 1990s to the U.S. in the 2000s, are simply false, usually demonstrably so. The torture legacy of the Bush era is no exception.

So why is President Obama leaving virtually all of never-really-president Bush's alleged counter-terror practices in place, apparently including the option to torture suspects?

Whether U.S. intelligence officials got to Obama after he was elected, or whether he was always inclined to cruel, violent tactics that violate international law, those of us who supported Obama, despite all reservations, based on his campaign promises to end torture and other dangerous, illegal and immoral aspects of the "war on terror," were just plain had. There is no way to spin what Obama said during the campaign into what Obama is doing as President. We were had.


(H/T Avedon.)

Steve
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Tech Fail News

The GPS may begin to fail next year:

The Global Positioning System faces the possibility of failures and blackouts, a federal watchdog agency has warned the U.S. Congress. Mismanagement by and underinvestment by the U.S. Air Force places the GPS at risk of failure in 2010 and beyond. The problem: Delays in launching replacement satellites, among other things.

According to the Government Accountability Office report, "In recent years, the Air Force has struggled to successfully build GPS satellites within cost and schedule goals" as part of a $2 billion modernization program.

"If the Air Force does not meet its schedule goals for development of GPS IIIA satellites, there will be an increased likelihood that in 2010, as old satellites begin to fail, the overall GPS constellation will fall below the number of satellites required to provide the level of GPS service that the U.S. government commits to."

     ...

In other words, during the Bush/Cheney years, cost-cutting measures allowed deterioration of one of the systems most essential to national security... and equally essential to your being able to drive to your Aunt Mabel's without getting lost, or to relocate that wonderful fishing hole in the middle of the lake, or...

Well, to hell with it, just forget security, Aunt Mabel and fishing, and listen to some music. Whip out your iPod or iPhone, plug in those earbuds...

Steve
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Will Bush And Cheney Face Nuremberg?

Not literally, of course: will they face the equivalent of the Nuremberg trials after W.W. II, in which the Nazi German leadership were charged with waging aggressive war? Over on Kos, occams hatchet provides us a well-written diary entry on the history of that event, the significance played by visual documentation (film, in that case) in convincing people of the deep evils committed, and parallels to today's situation, in which Dick Cheney has ordered some photo evidence destroyed and is attempting to suppress other evidence. This short exploration of a vast subject is worth your effort to read.

What? Oh... that. In my opinion, the answer is "no": Cheney and Bush will face a comfortable, wealthy retirement, never once having to account before the law for anything they have done. If Obama lacks the will, who would see to it that they faced justice?

Steve
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The Torture Thirteen

Marcy Wheeler lists and describes the 13 Bush administration officials directly responsible for torture... authorizing it, implementing it, providing alleged legal cover... in this Salon column. This is worth your time: many of the figures you will know, a few you will not, and there may be facts that slipped past you even if you have tried carefully to keep up. As always, Wheeler's writing is very lucid. With the help of journalists like Wheeler and authors like Jane Mayer, we may yet see some of the architects of these heinous international crimes come before the bar of justice.

Steve
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MoDo Mugs Marshall - UPDATED!

I've been reading Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo since it was a lonely one-person blog, a very creditable solo effort before it became the behemoth it is today. Indeed, in the very early days, I even corresponded with Mr. Marshall; I thought he needed a bit more liberal perspective in his daily reading. That was then; this is allegedly now... and TPM is one of the definitive Dem-oriented blogs on the Web, comparable in scope, size and mission to Kos, Huffington Post, Firedoglake, etc.

So when New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd (do you really need a link?) lifts a couple of sentences directly from a post by Josh Marshall, without attribution or even an indication that the material is quoted, it's rather a big deal. Two significant things happened when MoDo mugged Marshall: first, as Glenn Greenwald noted, MoDo's column grew "uncharacteristically cogent and substantive." Second, her act put the lie once and for all to the stereotype that it is bloggers who are parasitical. Greenwald (along with everyone else) mentions the New York Times's Scott Shane's duly credited use of blogger Marcy Wheeler's work in breaking a story on the torture of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (the indefatigable Wheeler beat the NYT to the story by not less than a day), and indeed the fact that a blogger broke a story of that size was noteworthy. But let's face it: among bloggers today, it's not just Wheeler and Marshall who break stories, and among columnists, it's not just MoDo who uses bloggers' material. Indeed, the only thing remarkable here is that MoDo out-and-out plagiarized the text of Marshall's remarks... quoted him almost verbatim, without attribution.

We live in the Age of Overwhelming Corporate Copyright, and regular readers know that I have mixed feelings about the fact and the result. Go read the Constitution (remember that old screed?) about the reason for the institutions of patent and copyright: "[t]o promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries[.]" The rights are not eternal, nor are they absolute, and it is my opinion that many large organizations with huge armies of lawyers abuse their copyrights and patents to the detriment of the "Progress of Science and useful Arts." But I do think Marshall should have rights to use his prose exclusively on his own site for at least a few days. And I believe the NYT should at least issue an apology for MoDo's completely implausible non-explanation that she was told what Marshall wrote by a friend of hers... though issuing a check to Marshall would be better.

When the law somehow does not apply to the largest, most powerful institutions in our society, we little folks begin to get the impression that the law, as implemented, is a large pile of hypocrisy. And that eventually has consequences.


UPDATE: An afterthought:

Steve
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Digby On Obama On Single Payer

Worth a read. Don't expect any surprises... or any help on the way, if you've been fucked by your insurance company. I, for one, have given up all reasonable hope for improvement in healthcare funding during Obama's presidency... the man hasn't got a (ahem) single pair.

Steve
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The 'Majority Minority' Electorate And Political Change

The term grates on the ear, but "majority minority" describes an ever growing number of the nation's counties:

Warren Co., Miss., switches to 'majority minority'
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS Associated Press Writer © 2009 The Associated Press
May 14, 2009, 7:48AM

JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi's Warren County has long been a multicultural hub with its Chinese-owned grocery stores, black funeral homes and restaurants that serve fried catfish and turnip greens to diverse crowds of diners.

Now U.S. Census Bureau data, released Thursday, show the home of Vicksburg is one of six counties in the U.S. that became "majority minority" between 2007 and 2008. They joined 303 of the nation's 3,142 counties that already had a minority of non-Hispanic whites.

The other newcomers last year were Orange County, Fla.; Edwards and Schleicher counties in Texas; Finney County, Kan.; and Stanislaus County, Calif.

     ...

Note that Texas contains two of the new majority minority counties. We have 256 counties total. How significant is this politically? It's difficult to say. Let's start by acknowledging that majority population does not imply political control or anything close to it: according to About.com, Texas has been a majority minority state since about July 2004, and accordingly, the once overwhelming dominance of the Angry White Male Party (i.e., the GOP) has lowered considerably. But the GOP still holds the governorship and both houses of the Legislature, albeit by only two votes in the state House.

On the other hand, dominance is about more than population distribution: in America, wealth distribution by race is exceedingly weighted toward whites. It is more difficult to make a similar statement about distribution by gender because of the complexities of the relationship of wealth to marital and parenthood status, but I think it is safe to say that males, particularly white males, have quite an advantage over females.

So the problem of the Grossly Overrepresented Party may be stated simply: how do they retain power when almost all of their policies are economically disadvantageous to a great majority of the population? The huge growth in household wealth in recent years, almost entirely (89 percent) in households in the upper quartile of wealth, is surely not sustainable; indeed, it may have collapsed with the rush of home foreclosures since the linked wiki was written. Presuming the democratic process continues to function in the US (not a certainty, in my opinion), the Grand Oligarchy Party is almost certain to decline in political power.

What will the GOP do? Of course they will continue to lie, cheat and steal; that goes almost without saying. They may monkeywrench basic governmental services and (especially) all attempts at economic stimulus even more than they have to date. Will that work? Will they regain power in any substantial measure?

Given today's Democratic leadership, I wouldn't bet against the GOP. Why? Is it some magic effectiveness of GOP guile and perfidy? Is it Democratic incompetence, that incomparable ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Is it the arrival of a worldwide environmental and economic context that makes it impossible for the United States to maintain a lifestyle to which its population, at least its wealthy population, has become accustomed?

And is there anything that can be done to save our assets?

A guest op-ed in the AJC makes the statement that "[t]he 'millennials' —- the generation of Americans born between 1982 and 2003 —- now identify as Democrats by a ratio of 2-to-1. They are the first in four generations to contain more self-perceived liberals than conservatives." A short while ago, I would have considered this very good news. Now, after our encounters with Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama and too many Blue Dogs, I just don't know. The probable political implications of the increase in majority minority states and counties may or may not be enough to save the nation. And the Democratic leadership seems to be doing its best to undermine the very infrastructure available to it to do the job. The millennials have a tough job ahead of them.

Steve
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AFP: Obama To Restart Gitmo Military Commissions

Wednesday the Thirteenth, Part One:

Obama to revive Guantanamo military trials


AFP
AFP American Edition

May 13, 2009

President Barack Obama is due to announce this week that he is reviving controversial military trials for suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, US officials said.

But Obama, who sharply criticized the use of military commissions to try extremists under his predecessor George W. Bush, may ask lawmakers to expand legal protections for detainees, said the officials, who requested anonymity.

The president could push the US Congress, which created the military commissions in 2006, to curb the use of hearsay evidence, ban coerced testimony and allow suspects to choose their defense counsel, one source said.

The move would affect, among others, five detainees charged with having played key roles in the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes, including the plot's self-proclaimed mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

     ...

No. Just... no. He cannot do that.

Actually, he probably can. Bush did. No one stopped Bush from engaging the U.S. in show trials and widespread, long-term human rights violations extending at least as far as torture and indefinite imprisonment without due process.

At the moment, I cannot see any means ordinary American citizens can use to bring this horror to a halt. Elections? Those didn't work; not even an effectively complete change of the political regime in control had even the least preventative effect on any part of it. Political activism? Street protests? Blogging?? You gotta be shitting me! So far, nothing... nothing... has worked:

  • We still have the torture.
  • We still have the government secrecy.
  • We still have trials under the Military Commissions Act: the proposed safeguards do not assuage my discomfort and suspicion about trials that are neither constitutionally grounded civilian trials nor legitimate military trials.
  • We still have the ongoing warrantless wiretapping of American citizens by their government.
  • We still have two wars in progress.
  • We still have a coward in charge of the Senate, and
  • I am beginning to wonder about the man in the White House, as he relinquishes one after another of the positions he so forthrightly proclaimed during the presidential campaign.

Many of us went into the election with our eyes wide open, knowing that Obama is an old Chicago pol in the tradition of his city. That is no surprise, to me at least. Reneging on campaign promises is hardly a shocker either; they all do it. But we are talking about the fundamental rights underpinning our nation's Constitution, and I admit I believed that Obama and the Democrats in Congress would retain at least the basics of those rights in their formulation of policy positions. Perhaps they will yet do that... but at the moment, it appears they are blowing in the political wind, casting off their commitments as convenience dictates. That is new behavior, or if not new, at least worse behavior than any of us have seen to date. We could easily find ourselves in a new nation, conceived not in liberty and dedicated only to the power, money and convenience of those in charge. It has not always been thus.

As long as this Democratic administration behaves very nearly as indifferently toward human rights as Bush and Cheney and their terrorist thugs pretending to be a political party did over the past eight years (and continue to do to this day), I shall simply opt out of partisan politics. The GOP is all about power and money and nothing else, but the rule of law has to mean something to any individual or group I actively support. There has to be a better approach to governance than watching outlaws threaten all the people in the world. The name of the group of outlaws is of no consequence to us.

At least for the moment, in recognition of the lack of new rude poetry on the site and the utter dereliction of duty on the part of Democrats in the federal government, I am changing the name of the blog again. I may change it back... but only if somebody can give me one good reason why I should keep on blogging about party politics. Right now, I don't see it.

Steve
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Can't Reid? Can't Count? No, Can't Discipline!

Harry Reid apparently thinks 60 votes are needed to confirm Obama's OLC nominee Dawn Johnsen:

[Reid] suggested on Tuesday that he does not have the votes to bring up President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“Right now we’re finding out when to do that,” Reid said, responding to a question about the status of Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to the Justice post. “We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60.”

(Christy Hardin Smith, quoting The Hill.)

Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor, is by all reports eminently qualified, but she worked for NARAL, earning her the GOP social conservatives' disapproval.

But... 60 votes? Is 60 votes the new threshold for all confirmations, all legislation, all votes of any sort in the Senate? When was the Constitution amended, or Senate rules changed, while I wasn't looking? Can an overwhelming majority in the Senate not win any vote of any sort without a 60-vote majority?

There is no tradition whatsoever of filibustering presidential nominees; indeed, the tradition historically is that presidents are allowed to appoint the people they want to Executive branch positions. But today (think back to the Bush administration) there seem to be two sets of rules, one for Republicans and a different one for Democrats... perhaps the new rule structure can be called "IOKIYAR." I suppose this is the GOP acting "conservative" again, where "conservative" means "whatever serves the short-term power interests of the GOP."

Putting aside for a moment how Reid might discipline his own caucus to obtain most of those 60 votes, Specter and Nelson have both reportedly agreed to vote for cloture even though they will vote against Johnsen's confirmation. They shouldn't be allowed to do either one without paying a price named by Reid, but if Reid can't at least get cloture votes from them, and pick off one or two pro-choice Republicans, WTF is wrong with him?

Does anyone know how a Senate majority leader can be removed for nonfeasance?

Steve
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Specter For The Crude

Sen. Arlen Specter (?-PA), himself a two-time cancer survivor, put up a fundraising web site, Specter for the Cure. Admirable, right? Is it really?

'Specter For The Cure' Cancer Website, Really Political Fundraising Tool
By Brian Beutler - May 8, 2009, 9:12AM

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA)--two time survivor of Hodgkins disease--is no stranger to cancer, cancer awareness, and cancer research funding. But he's using his hard earned credibility as a national spokesperson on the issue to fight the disease in a roundabout way.

He's touting--and raising money from--a website called specterforthecure.com, which he describes as "a bold new initiative to reform our government's medical research efforts, cut red tape and unstrangle the hope for accelerated cures."

But the money he's raising isn't funding research grants, or advocacy, or treatment for patients who can't afford it. It's funding the Senate re-election campaign of one Arlen Specter.

     ...

Damn the man to hell. Actually, Damn him to Hill... let Anita Hill decide his fate in the afterworld. No, strike that; Hill apparently takes her human obligations seriously, and would let him off too lightly. Back to the original plan: damn Specter to hell.

The web site has since been changed to clarify the fact that any money you give through it goes to the Specter campaign, not to cancer research. The modification was made in the last few days, after its purely political purpose was revealed. In my opinion, that gesture is too little, too late, and does not absolve Specter in the least of the original sleazy trick.

I spent at least two decades of my career providing computer support to cancer researchers in various institutions in the Texas Medical Center... Baylor College of Medicine, M.D. Anderson, U.T. Health Science Center at Houston, etc. I like to think that people including Arlen Specter are alive today in some small part because of the work I did... the work we did, and the "we" most certainly does not include Arlen Specter. He has no right to claim that work for his own craven personal political purposes. Diverting money that individuals may have intended to give to support that work to Specter's political campaign instead is fraud... and a very Republican style of fraud at that.

Get this man out of the Democratic Party. We do not need the likes of him. Primary his ass out of there before the 2010 elections.

Steve
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No Doutb Abotu It

Commenter elizlucinda on a HuffPo story about a man wrongly jailed for almost three months in Texas:

There is no way on God's green earth that I would ever go to Texas.
they seem nust down there!!!

It's true, elizlucinad. All of us here are nust. Crayz. Insaen. Mda. Bonkesr. As surely as your name
is elizlucinad... don't come "down" to Texas!

Steve
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Not My Mother, Not My Grammar Either

I just received a bit of spam from beyond the grave! The From address was Your Mother and the subject... ah, wait just a damned minute... the subject was

Its Mothers Day did you remember

The late Mrs. Bates was a degreed, certified English teacher, practicing, until my birth, in the public schools in South Texas. This bit of spam might have fooled the spam filter with its great quantity of random words, but there is no way it would have fooled Mom into confusing "its" with "it's" or "mothers" with "mother's"; she would never, ever have committed such errors. That spammer is one sorry mother... but not mine.

Have a great Mother's Day, everyone.

Steve
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Oops, Missed It Again

President Obama proclaimed a National Day of Prayer yesterday, as did every president in every year since 1975... and darn it to heck, I missed it again.

Look: Dog knows I have no aversion to prayer. But whether I pray, when I pray, Whom* I pray to, and what I pray are none of my government's business. Period. An American president's intervention in people's religious lives, even in the most general way, is not different in principle from what the Taliban does to people under its control, and as a matter of principle, I must object...

President Obama: it is not your prerogative to tell me to pray!


* It is a standard joke that UUs begin their prayers, "To Whom it may concern." Works for me!

Steve
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Three Mile Island

Three Mile Island? That incident happened 30 years ago, didn't it? Studies were done on the radiation releases, the whole matter was put to rest, and it's all in the past, isn't it?

Maybe. Plans for upcoming construction of nuclear power plants are inevitably based in part on the understanding of safety considerations gained, studied and published in reports of the TMI incident. What if that understanding is faulty? Worse, what if the data were falsified?

The Institute for Southern Studies, through its publication Facing South, compares the official TMI reports with those of a growing number of credible dissenters, many of whom are themselves veterans of a variety of nuclear power programs and none of whom could reasonably be accused of being philosophically opposed to nuclear power from the outset. Their conclusion: the official TMI radiation estimates are drastically inconsistent with reported phenomena (human symptoms, animal deaths and injuries, etc.) in the surrounding area, and may be as much as 100 to 1000 times too low. The implication for the design of safety measures in nuclear power facilities underway today is staggering. If the reported numbers are erroneously low... we need not even discuss whether they were faked... the consequences are greater than any of us want to contemplate.

Can safe nuclear power plants be constructed? Possibly; I do not know. Can safe nuclear power plants be economically viable? Ah, there's a question for the business types among us... but I'm not certain we can obtain a straight answer when there is a thriving industry already designing and building plants that are quite possibly not anywhere close to being safe, because they are based on faulty numbers from the official TMI reports. Without further study, we just don't know.

A personal note: Many of you are aware that I have an engineering degree and a career in IT. It would be difficult to argue that I am in any sense technophobic. And to the consternation of some other liberals I know, yes, I believe that the application of various technologies can be part of the solutions of real-world social and environmental problems facing us today. But this nuclear safety information, much of it not new at all, but apparently deliberately suppressed for decades, leads me to believe that safe nuclear power is a whole lot harder than it was once thought to be. Remember that the room for error is extremely small: a serious radiation release can have regional consequences for 100, 1000, even 10,000 years. And we've had two serious ones that I know of in my adult lifetime.

There are other arguments against pursuing energy security through nuclear power: for example, solar, wind and geothermal sources introduce effectively no additional energy to the entire system, while nuclear fission inevitably heats up the system. But for the moment, I'd like to keep the focus on the safety issue. If FS's conclusions about Three Mile Island are correct, humankind would be highly ill-advised to pursue widespread use of nuclear power generation in its current state. If it is to be done at all, there must be much greater emphasis... and hence greater expense... in pursuit of adequate safety measures.

Steve
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No One Represents Me Anymore

... in Congress:

Et tu, Waxman? I expect the Blue Dogs to behave like GOPers, but really... this is discouraging. Has the Democratic Party achieved its numbers in Congress at the expense of the political principles that led many of us to join it in the first place?


On a household note, Stella's 20-year-old cat Tabitha is behaving very strangely lately, sitting in odd places, staring down the "cat" in the bathroom mirror, etc. I've also considered enlisting her in the service of the HFD station in the next block, because three or more times a day, she delivers more water onto a floor in 10 seconds than any of their fire trucks can carry. Seriously... though several serious possible medical problems have been eliminated by the vet's tests, there's clearly something wrong. Please think good thoughts in Tabitha's direction; her problems are obviously greater than the post-move anxiety we initially assumed.

Steve
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About The Music

I suppose everyone has a story involving neighbors and loud music, and I'm no exception. It's just that often enough I'm the source of the music (though mine is seldom loud; my instruments simply can't do that). I'm always reminded of an experience two moves ago, when I moved from a large house shared with one or more other musicians into a smaller house which I had all to myself. The move took place in spring. Once the instruments were in place, I opened the windows and the front door (screens kept the bugs out) and started playing a few tunes from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book on the spinet harpsichord. Pretty soon, I heard the dreaded knock at the door. Sure enough, I recognized the neighbor from across the street.

"I'd like to complain about the music," he began.

As I started to apologize and offer to close the door and windows (sigh), he interrupted me. "It's too quiet; I can't hear it well enough. Could you crank it up a bit?"

I grinned, explained that the instruments were quiet even at their loudest, and invited him in. It turned out that he was the bass player in a then-well-known local rock group. We were great neighbors for the entire time I lived there.

What reminded me of the incident was this NYT story:

Musicians Preferred; Loud Music O.K.
By DEBORAH BALDWIN
Published: April 30, 2009

     ...

But those gigs were nothing compared with talking her way into a $920-a-month studio apartment big enough for a bed and a baby grand. “I kept pestering the landlords,” said Ms. Staaf, a finalist in a jazz competition this month at the Kennedy Center in Washington. “I sent them a list of friends who lived in the building. I sent them my CD. It was like I was auditioning.”

Wait — her CD?

You’ve heard of singing for your supper. At 99 Ocean Avenue, in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn, you can sing for your shelter.

And end up living next door to someone just like you.

     ...

The idea of a residence full of musicians is hardly new... even my previous apartment complex held possibly 20 or 30 musicians among its tenants when I first moved there in 1995... but frankly, there's no better neighbor for a musician than another musician. And someone seems to have executed the idea very well in a pair of buildings in NYC. Please take the time to visit the article; reading it is a feel-good experience.

Steve
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Boobs Again

Yes, I'm referring to a majority of the US Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered a federal appeals court to re-examine its ruling in favor of CBS Corp. in a legal fight over entertainer Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction.

The high court on Monday directed the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia to consider reinstating the $550,000 fine that the Federal Communications Commission imposed on CBS over Jackson's breast-baring performance at the 2004 Super Bowl.

     ...

The appellate court said the incident lasted nine-sixteenths of one second and should have been regarded as "fleeting." The FCC previously deviated from its nearly 30-year practice of fining indecent broadcast programming only when it was so "pervasive as to amount to 'shock treatment' for the audience," the court said.

     ...

The case is FCC v. CBS Corp., 08-653.

Don't we have a couple of wars and an economic meltdown going on? Doesn't our government have better things to spend its time and money on than a 9/16-second nipple appearance? Oh, right, I forgot... this is America, land of the free, home of the bra[ve]...

Steve
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GOP Folly

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-Obligatory Bad Pun) told Sen. Arlen Specter (R-D-?-Who Knows) that he supported radical conservative Pat Toomey to replace Specter.

Meanwhile, hardcore segregationist Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Old South) will be the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, in Specter's absence, during the confirmation hearings of President Obama's Supreme Court nominee.

Go ahead, guys. "Purify" the GOP. You have the support of this old Democrat. I hope your few moments of joy at Obama's probably brief discomfiture are worth it to you as your party meets its impending demise. The American voting public discovered over a period of eight years exactly how difficult it is to breathe in your ever-smaller tent. My thanks in advance for your efforts toward your party's suicide.

Meanwhile, Specter has not yet once acted like a Democrat; he's too busy proving he hasn't changed his political philosophy. For the record, to the extent a non-Pennsylvanian has any right to an opinion, I will support any credible Democratic primary opponent of Specter. It is unclear as of yet whether Sestak counts as credible; word varies on the street regarding whether he deserves our support.

Steve
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Justice Souter To Retire

Ho-hum:

Supreme Court Justice David Souter is planning to retire at the end of the current court term.

The vacancy will give President Obama his first chance to name a member of the high court and begin to shape its future direction.

     ...

Why do I say "ho-hum"? Souter was appointed by George H.W. Bush in 1990. Souter's record on the Court is one of moderate conservatism; whatever President Bush the father may have hoped, as the wiki observes,

After the appointment of Clarence Thomas, Souter moved to the middle.[3] By the late 1990s, Souter began to align himself more with Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on rulings, although as of 1995, he sided on more occasions with the most liberal justice, John Paul Stevens, than either Breyer or Ginsburg, both Clinton appointees.[6] O'Connor began to move to the center. On the abortion issue, Souter began to vote to override restrictions he believed in back in 1992. On death penalty cases, worker rights cases, criminal rights cases, and other issues, Souter began voting with the liberals in the court. So while appointed by a Republican president and thus expected to be conservative,[12] Souter is now considered part of the liberal wing of the Court.

Well, IMHO, "considered part of the liberal wing of the Court" is too strong a statement. But there is little likelihood that Obama will appoint anyone with a judicial philosophy far distant from Souter's. And that's why I say "ho-hum."

But not really ho-hum, of course. If Obama tries his usual split-the-difference approach, or tries to avoid confrontation for the sake of progress in Congress on other issues, we could end up with a holy terror in that seat. And it is important that Democratic senators as well as Obama himself remember that Republican judicial candidates... Rehnquist, Thomas and Scalia come to mind... often lie outright during their confirmation hearings to get on the bench. This is no time to make nice: draw Republicans in if they're willing to give the President a Justice that he really wants, but if they're not, stuff him or her down their throats. Something has to counterbalance Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas. We're talking consequences for the whole rest of the century here.

Steve
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Booby Pageant

The Miss California Pageant financed the winner's boob job before sending her on to the Miss USA pageant, where she became runner-up. Moreover, the recipient of the new pair, Carrie Prejean, is the same one who became infamous by vocally opposing same-sex marriage, even appearing in an ad against it. Shades of Anita Bryant! Back then, I boycotted orange juice in protest; do I have to eschew mother's milk this time around? What's that? don't eschew it, just swallow it?

I hardly even know what to say about this that isn't so obvious as not to require mention. But that never stopped me before. Simply put, this kind of fakery, surely guaranteed to destroy a woman's personal confidence if revealed to the public, is Exhibit A B C DD in the case against so-called beauty contests. As Francis Bacon (1561-1626) put it, "There is no excellent beauty, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion." Asymmetry is essential to beauty. A boob job (other than in response to an essential procedure such as a mastectomy) removes a certain lovely asymmetry, an asymmetry that differs uniquely in every woman. I believe you can finish this thought yourselves; it's not rocket science.

On the other hand, the pageant director (you can bet he's male) is a real prick for signing off on this. Perhaps he, too, requires some "enhancement"? Now that might be rocket science...

Steve
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Friday No Cat Blogging

There is a reason I've posted no cat pics lately. The cats are alive and more-or-less healthy; they're not on strike; they sometimes hide but not all day long. But Tabitha, usually the easier subject, has been available only in one of two poses: asleep and hence doing nothing "cute" (there are already plenty of pics of her in that state; check Fridays before about the middle of March), or... um... actively defining her territory and "complaining" about its apparent former occupancy by other cats. I thought you all would appreciate it if I spared you that kind of photo. Now that there is glass once again in the patio door from the den, perhaps I'll be lucky and catch Samantha sitting with nose pressed to that glass, avidly following the birds visible in the back yard (there are far more of them here than in the apartments). Until then, we're out of luck for suitably non-scatological cat pics. Apologies.

Steve
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Selected Links To Recent Posts

 
Click any permalink below to go to the original article on a previous page. Click a comment link below to add a comment to the original article. Your comment will be noticed, by the YDD at least: HaloScan has a page allowing me to view recent comments, no matter which post they refer to. Some very recent posts may be included in their entirety.

Fried Rice?

Did Condoleezza Rice just pull a Richard Nixon in discussing torture with a Stanford student, asserting that if the preznit said waterboarding isn't torture, it can't be illegal? Watch the video that emptywheel provides and decide for yourself whether Condi was attempting the "I was only following orders" defense. I think the answer is "yes, she was," and that if this is widely disseminated, Condi could be in serious trouble. But I've been disappointed in such matters before.


Only slightly OT: one of the commenters points out, with documentation, that reheating fried rice can lead to food poisoning. I almost made that mistake last week. Whew! I guess there's some Rice you just shouldn't eat...

Steve
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Guaranteed To Engender Mixed Feelings

Carl Hulse, NYT:

Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said on Tuesday he would switch to the Democratic party, presenting Democrats with a possible 60th vote and the power to break Senate filibusters as they try to advance the Obama administration’s new agenda.

     ...

Whatever his party, Specter is hardly a reliable vote. He's not even reliable at voting the way he says he'll vote. But given the numbers, I'll take him. Can a newly minted Democrat beat a right-wing radical Republican (Rep. Pat Toomey) who was to have been Specter's challenger in the GOP primary, and will, I presume, be his general election opponent now? Time will tell.

Steve
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Stating The Obvious

Steve
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When It Rains...

Steve
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Treating Detainees Like Animals

Steve
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Through A Glass Sharply

Steve
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Purported Debate Over Effectiveness Of Torture

Steve
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Blackmailing Your Customers Into Submission

Steve
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The Effectiveness Of Tor... (Redacted)

Dick Cheney has asked the CIA to declassify intelligence which he says shows that torture has been effective in obtaining information to combat terrorism.

Steve
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Bureaucratic Encounters Of The Absurd Kind

Steve
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Bad Attitude

Steve
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The Released Torture Memos
   Or: The Bybee Out With The Boardwater

Steve
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Dear Governor Perry

Steve
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Household Status Report

Steve
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Franken... Again

Steve
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Obama Justice Attacks Habeas

Steve
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Day Late Cat Blogging

Steve
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In What Area Is Obama Worse Than Bush?

Steve
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When Your Family's Good Name Just Isn't Good Enough

Steve
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Footloose? - UPDATED 3x

Steve
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Scary: Tinkering With Memory

Steve
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Moved Out, Moving In

Steve
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Boehner Shitfaced Drunk At Presser

Steve
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Iowa Supremes: Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional

Steve
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Friday Happy House Duo Blogging

Steve
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Veggie Binging?

Steve
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Another Short Hiatus

Steve
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